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Isn't the overriding goal of a society to steadily improve the quality of life of its people? Everyone would agree with that statement, but the how-to's are the sticky questions, and there are as many answers to those questions as there are countries in the world. Each country's leaders would tell you their method of achieving an enhanced quality of life is the way to go.

I'm a red, white, and blue American entrepreneur, a free market proponent, and a small business owner. I'm convinced the opportunities to make a profit here in the USA are the keys to our great standard of living and a super quality of life.

However, the American dream--to have a high standard of living and to make a lot of money in order to achieve our dream--must have its limits. We can't possibly be allowed to do virtually anything to make a dollar. A whole host of things do not only have a negative effect on our quality of life, but many times have a debilitating effect on the individual.

The list is as long as your arm; drugs, prostitution, etc. You could add hundreds of items, but the gray areas are the ones I want to address. It's basically a trade for short-term profit to the long-term detriment of a quality life.

By allowing a factory hog farm to be constructed near the Buffalo National River, politicians and other short-sighted individuals seemed willing to let profit take precedence over protecting the river. Fortunately, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality has denied C&H Hog Farms' application for a new operating permit in the river's watershed.

Let's look at a bigger picture: The combination of coal mining and coal-fired plants is one of the major contributors to climate change.

Climate change is real, and saying it's not happening is right up there with the Flat Earth Society. What is even worse is that the climate-change deniers are doing it to make a profit. They know better! They are willing to trade our grandchildren's and great-grandchildren's futures for coal-mining profits. The horrors of climate change during the next 20 to 30 years will be catastrophic, and anyone who supports coal-fired electrical generating plants is committing a crime against humanity.

What our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have to put up with is criminal. However, in order to continue to destroy the environment, it becomes cliché to deny climate change.

I grew up in and around Norphlet, a small town almost in the middle of the south Arkansas oilfields, and the last time I checked there was a pumping oil well right in the middle of town. I guess being associated with the oilfields and working in a refinery during my college summers had a big influence on my ultimate choice of professions, and today I'm still working as an oil and gas exploration geologist looking for new oil and gas fields.

Things have changed since I was a boy roaming the woods and fishing in the creeks of south Arkansas. As soon as I was old enough to hunt in the woods and swim in the creeks, I was faced with an environmental nightmare. In the 1940s and '50s many parts of south Arkansas producing oil wells dumped the saltwater produced with the oil into the nearest creek. Many of these older wells were producing several 100 barrels of saltwater a day along with the oil.

This was an accepted practice, considered part of the way things were. The creeks that received the saltwater became lifeless, and when the spring rains came and the creeks overflowed their banks, the land, sometimes as much as 50 yards on either side of the creeks, became as lifeless as the creeks. In the summer as the sun dried up the water, a thin layer of salt covered part of the creeks' drainage.

Let's fast-forward to 2018. The creeks are full of life, the salt flats are gone, Mother Nature has restored the vegetation, and the saltwater is pumped back deep in the subsurface. Sure, it costs more to dispose of the saltwater in this manner, but today, the idea that you would dump saltwater into the nearest creek is unthinkable, and that is the way it should be.

There are practices in industry that are detrimental to the environment and to the health of our citizens. It's trite to say we should steadily seek to reduce hazards to our health and environment in our society. Improving our environment automatically increases our quality of life, and as our industry prospers and profits soar, the society as a whole should tighten restrictions against polluting instead of loosening them.

That is exactly what has happened over the past 50-plus years. We have cleaner air to breathe, better quality water, and our land use has steadily improved. In making the USA the economic powerhouse of the world, we have succeeded in not only raising our standard of living through economic progress but have created a healthier country, which is the envy of the world.

Of all the things that should be bipartisan, our quality of life should always be something Republicans and Democrats alike can embrace. That has been the case during the administration of presidents from Ronald Reagan forward. However, the present administration is trying to undo the progress made by Reagan, the Bushes, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. A great deal of the environmental progress happened under Republican administrations.

Today, unemployment is at a record low and corporate profits are soaring. If anything, we should be strengthening environmental standards to continue the improvement of our quality of life. But we're not. This administration is systematically stripping the EPA of critical regulations and cutting its budget. By allowing the goal of making money to take precedence over environmentally policies, it is steadily reducing our quality of life.

Richard Mason is a registered professional geologist, downtown developer, former chairman of the Department of Environmental Quality Board of Commissioners, past president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, and syndicated columnist. Email

Editorial on 01/14/2018

Print Headline: Money isn't everything

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